Thursday, November 16, 2006

3 Things I Love About Tris

I work part-time down at my local running store helping out with their races. Everyone knows that I've run a lot of marathons and that I've been struggling with swimming in my first year of tris. After my DNF at IMFL, which is my first-ever DNF, many have asked why I'm planning to continue doing tris rather than focus on running, which is clearly my better sport.

The answer is simple: I'm now hooked on tris !!!

Don't get me wrong. I still love to run. But honestly, the challenge of running a marathon has diminshed after four years and 38 marathons. I could work on running marathons faster or start doing some shorter races, but I don't like running high mileage or doing intense speedwork (the only times I've gotten frustrating running injuries is while doing short intervals and after running my one and only 5K). I'd much rather run only 3-4 times a week, run relatively easy-paced marathons (and much more than 1-2 a year), and still have time to do other things.

Like triathlons!

Firstly, tris have been terrific for my marriage. My husband used to do them back in the 80's before he blew out his knees and shoulders. He can still ride a bike, however, and has rediscovered his love of cycling since I got a road bike. So now we go out together for nice long rides nearly every weekend. When we travel, one of our must-dos is to check out various bike/tri stores, where we act like kids in a candy store. When I race, my husband now brings his bike so he can get a ride in and pop up along the course to cheer me on instead of just sitting/standing around for hours waiting for me to finish.

Secondly, tris have made me a smarter runner. Before, I was stupidly stubborn and used to always try to run every step of the way, even if it meant passing up getting a drink or drinking enough. This strategy wasn't a problem on cold days but I paid the price on hot days. Ironman training forced me to come up with a better way of dealing with the heat. I experimented with taking regular walk breaks (a big no-no for many hardcore runners but acceptable to many hardcore triathletes) and hydrating more. I discovered how much better I ran, even after biking. So now I know what to do to run strong when the temperature rises.

Thirdly, tris are very challenging to me. Like martial arts, they involve doing different things (tris: swim, bike, run; MA: katas, sparring, weapons) so the variety in training never gets old. Some things have come easier than others; swimming and sparring have been particularly difficult for me. Both required overcoming fears, learning efficient techniques, practicing good control and balance, and the ability to adapt when conditions were different from what I was used to when practicing. In fact, as I struggled with swimming I often thought: déjà vu!

But doing "hard" things is very rewarding to me. It's exciting to see how far I've come and how much more room there is for improvement, how much I've grown as a person as well as an athlete. If I ever get to the point where I am satisfied or bored, I'd probably move on to do something else more challenging. Meanwhile, I think it's safe to say that I'll be doing tris for a while.

2 comments:

nancytoby said...

Great post! I need to show this one to some of my runner friends to bring them over to the dark side!!!

Cliff said...

Shirley,

What a great spirit to tri and have fun.

I know what u mena about the swim part. The most fascinating thing i found about swimming is that i have to act un-naturally to swim better.

Example...nature instinct when in the water is to freak out. This means tense muscle and breathing heavily. This is the opposite of swimming efficiently. We have to relax our muscle, take long slow breathes and we will swim faster.